News

With revised design, Castilleja tries to appease critics of its growth plan

School says modernization project will not bring new cars to campus

Seeking a truce with critics of its contentious expansion proposal, Castilleja School this week submitted a revised plan to the city of Palo Alto that reduces the size of a proposed garage and retains two homes that had been previously slated for demolition.

The revised application, submitted on Monday, shrinks the footprint of the garage by about 22%, from about 45,000 square feet to about 35,000 square feet. The smaller size means that the underground garage would no longer encroach into the below-grade setback along Embarcadero Road, obviating the need for a variance from the city. It also means that the Old Palo Alto neighborhood school will no longer need to demolish two residences at Emerson Street, including the Lockey house at 1263 Emerson St., which was built in 1912.

With the new plan, the private school at 1310 Bryant St. is trying to address some of the key issues that opponents to the expansion have raised over the past two years, as the project advanced through the city's planning process. While some neighbors have lauded Castilleja's plan to modernize its facilities, others have suggested that the proposed changes — most notably, the new underground garage — would exacerbate traffic congestion around the campus.

Castilleja's smaller garage would have space for 96 vehicles; the prior proposal, submitted last July, had 115 spaces in the garage.

Overall, Castilleja's plan calls for demolishing several existing buildings, including the Fine Art Center and the Campus Center, and constructing a modern, nearly blocklong building along Kellogg Avenue. Altogether, Castilleja would demolish about 84,572 square feet of floor area, and construct 84,124 square feet, according to project plans.

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Lorraine Brown, Castilleja's director of communications, said the school has already made numerous compromises with neighbors as it refined its modernization plan. By revising the garage design, she asserted, the school is demonstrating that it is listening to neighbors' concerns and altering the project accordingly.

Brown said she believes this change "can have a most significant impact toward leading us toward a shared solution." It responds to residents concerns about traffic problems and about the need to preserve homes and trees. While the plan shows that the project would still require 22 trees to be removed, that is nine fewer than under the prior plan, according to the school.

And now that the homes at 1235 and 1263 Emerson St. won't be demolished, Castilleja plans to use them to house school employees.

"What we really hope is this plan takes a step in moving Palo Alto toward having a Castilleja that meets the needs of future generations of young women and also meeting the needs of our immediate neighbors," Brown said.

The revisions are unlikely, however, to quash all of the neighborhood concerns, which range from complaints about Castilleja's enrollment figures to the number of events the school holds — and the surge in traffic that comes with them. Some neighbors have called for Castilleja to build a second campus elsewhere, while others have opposed the school's plans to increase its enrollment from the current level of 430 students to about 540, as the school hopes to do.

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Some of the mistrust dates back to 2013, when Castilleja was fined $265,000 by the city for vastly exceeding the 415-student limit in its permit. Since then, the school had been required to reduce its enrollment by about five students per year.

At a news briefing Tuesday afternoon, Nanci Kauffman, head of school at Castilleja, said the school has done everything that the city has requested.

"We are in compliance with what the city has been asking us to do," Kauffman said. "When we came forward about over-enrollment, the city put together a plan to come into compliance and we've been following that."

That argument has not swayed some of the school's neighbors. The blocks around Castilleja continue to display competing yard signs, some voicing support for the expansion and others stating their opposition. As the plans have slowly moved ahead, project opponents have spoken against the project at public hearings. At one point last year, the school took out a restraining order against a neighbor who admitted to removing several pro-Castilleja lawn signs.

Because the new plans were just submitted, Castilleja staff have not yet received any feedback from those neighbors who previously voiced opposition to the project. But Brown said the school has delivered letters to the neighbors to notify them about the revisions and to invite them to offer feedback.

But even if the revisions do not address all the criticism, they aim to mitigate some of the most significant, expected impacts of the modernization project. The draft Environmental Impact Report that the city released last summer identified three "significant and unavoidable impacts." Two of these relate to traffic generated by the proposed garage. The third relates to land use. The analysis found that the project would "create land use incompatibility or physically divide an established community."

Kathy Layendecker, Castilleja's associate head of school, said the school's new garage plans aim to minimize the impact on traffic by both reducing the number of cars in it and increasing the number of points at which students would be dropped off and picked up. A prior plan envisioned a single drop-off point inside the underground garage, so all cars would have to drive through it. The new plan creates three additional drop-off points at street level, thus distributing car trips to different sides of the campus.

That said, the garage design in the new proposal is much like the one in the prior one in that it envisions a single entrance on Bryant and a single exit on Emerson, a configuration that some neighbors say could lead to collisions between cars and bicyclists on Bryant, a city-designated "bike boulevard."

Layendecker said the school's traffic engineers have analyzed the new proposal and concluded that it would result in no net new trips. The city's consultants have yet to verify that conclusion.

Even if the revised plans succeed in reducing neighborhood opposition, the project still has a long way to go before it gets a green light. The city's planning staff is currently reviewing the application, after which time it would go to the Architectural Review Board, the Planning and Transportation Commission and the City Council.

"We are an institution that's over 100 years old," Kauffman said. "We want be here for another 100 years, at least. We are looking to have a plan approved that allows the school to be forward-thinking about the future and that actually improves the neighborhood."

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With revised design, Castilleja tries to appease critics of its growth plan

School says modernization project will not bring new cars to campus

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Feb 11, 2020, 7:26 pm

Seeking a truce with critics of its contentious expansion proposal, Castilleja School this week submitted a revised plan to the city of Palo Alto that reduces the size of a proposed garage and retains two homes that had been previously slated for demolition.

The revised application, submitted on Monday, shrinks the footprint of the garage by about 22%, from about 45,000 square feet to about 35,000 square feet. The smaller size means that the underground garage would no longer encroach into the below-grade setback along Embarcadero Road, obviating the need for a variance from the city. It also means that the Old Palo Alto neighborhood school will no longer need to demolish two residences at Emerson Street, including the Lockey house at 1263 Emerson St., which was built in 1912.

With the new plan, the private school at 1310 Bryant St. is trying to address some of the key issues that opponents to the expansion have raised over the past two years, as the project advanced through the city's planning process. While some neighbors have lauded Castilleja's plan to modernize its facilities, others have suggested that the proposed changes — most notably, the new underground garage — would exacerbate traffic congestion around the campus.

Castilleja's smaller garage would have space for 96 vehicles; the prior proposal, submitted last July, had 115 spaces in the garage.

Overall, Castilleja's plan calls for demolishing several existing buildings, including the Fine Art Center and the Campus Center, and constructing a modern, nearly blocklong building along Kellogg Avenue. Altogether, Castilleja would demolish about 84,572 square feet of floor area, and construct 84,124 square feet, according to project plans.

Lorraine Brown, Castilleja's director of communications, said the school has already made numerous compromises with neighbors as it refined its modernization plan. By revising the garage design, she asserted, the school is demonstrating that it is listening to neighbors' concerns and altering the project accordingly.

Brown said she believes this change "can have a most significant impact toward leading us toward a shared solution." It responds to residents concerns about traffic problems and about the need to preserve homes and trees. While the plan shows that the project would still require 22 trees to be removed, that is nine fewer than under the prior plan, according to the school.

And now that the homes at 1235 and 1263 Emerson St. won't be demolished, Castilleja plans to use them to house school employees.

"What we really hope is this plan takes a step in moving Palo Alto toward having a Castilleja that meets the needs of future generations of young women and also meeting the needs of our immediate neighbors," Brown said.

The revisions are unlikely, however, to quash all of the neighborhood concerns, which range from complaints about Castilleja's enrollment figures to the number of events the school holds — and the surge in traffic that comes with them. Some neighbors have called for Castilleja to build a second campus elsewhere, while others have opposed the school's plans to increase its enrollment from the current level of 430 students to about 540, as the school hopes to do.

Some of the mistrust dates back to 2013, when Castilleja was fined $265,000 by the city for vastly exceeding the 415-student limit in its permit. Since then, the school had been required to reduce its enrollment by about five students per year.

At a news briefing Tuesday afternoon, Nanci Kauffman, head of school at Castilleja, said the school has done everything that the city has requested.

"We are in compliance with what the city has been asking us to do," Kauffman said. "When we came forward about over-enrollment, the city put together a plan to come into compliance and we've been following that."

That argument has not swayed some of the school's neighbors. The blocks around Castilleja continue to display competing yard signs, some voicing support for the expansion and others stating their opposition. As the plans have slowly moved ahead, project opponents have spoken against the project at public hearings. At one point last year, the school took out a restraining order against a neighbor who admitted to removing several pro-Castilleja lawn signs.

Because the new plans were just submitted, Castilleja staff have not yet received any feedback from those neighbors who previously voiced opposition to the project. But Brown said the school has delivered letters to the neighbors to notify them about the revisions and to invite them to offer feedback.

But even if the revisions do not address all the criticism, they aim to mitigate some of the most significant, expected impacts of the modernization project. The draft Environmental Impact Report that the city released last summer identified three "significant and unavoidable impacts." Two of these relate to traffic generated by the proposed garage. The third relates to land use. The analysis found that the project would "create land use incompatibility or physically divide an established community."

Kathy Layendecker, Castilleja's associate head of school, said the school's new garage plans aim to minimize the impact on traffic by both reducing the number of cars in it and increasing the number of points at which students would be dropped off and picked up. A prior plan envisioned a single drop-off point inside the underground garage, so all cars would have to drive through it. The new plan creates three additional drop-off points at street level, thus distributing car trips to different sides of the campus.

That said, the garage design in the new proposal is much like the one in the prior one in that it envisions a single entrance on Bryant and a single exit on Emerson, a configuration that some neighbors say could lead to collisions between cars and bicyclists on Bryant, a city-designated "bike boulevard."

Layendecker said the school's traffic engineers have analyzed the new proposal and concluded that it would result in no net new trips. The city's consultants have yet to verify that conclusion.

Even if the revised plans succeed in reducing neighborhood opposition, the project still has a long way to go before it gets a green light. The city's planning staff is currently reviewing the application, after which time it would go to the Architectural Review Board, the Planning and Transportation Commission and the City Council.

"We are an institution that's over 100 years old," Kauffman said. "We want be here for another 100 years, at least. We are looking to have a plan approved that allows the school to be forward-thinking about the future and that actually improves the neighborhood."

Comments

Old Palo Alto, New Palo Alto
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2020 at 9:00 pm
Old Palo Alto, New Palo Alto, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2020 at 9:00 pm
62 people like this

This is an encouraging and substantial response to the draft environmental impact report and the neighborhood concerns. I am happy to see the administration making changes that respond directly to neighbor and community concerns. It sure sounds to me like they are making genuine efforts to engage in a constructive dialogue about this important issue. I think this is wonderful and productive step forward for all parties and for the larger city. Thanks to Castilleja for listening and being flexible. Of course there are more steps in the process, but this is an important one. It seems like a great sign for the future.


Long time resident
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 11, 2020 at 9:14 pm
Long time resident, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 11, 2020 at 9:14 pm
56 people like this

I'm pleased to read about this compromise. Palo Alto will be better off with more housing, more trees AND a school that can meet the needs of more girls who want single sex education. It's time for those who've been opposed to the project to acknowledge all that the school is doing to meet their needs. As a community, we have so many more important issues to debate than Castilleja. Thank you, Castilleja, for offering a solution that can move this project forward. Now, let's come together and support the school that predates all of us.


JT
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 11, 2020 at 9:27 pm
JT, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 11, 2020 at 9:27 pm
17 people like this

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Old Timer
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 12:07 am
Old Timer, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 12:07 am
36 people like this

Bravo Castilleja!

In a world increasingly characterized by contentious “us/them” politics at every turn, it is heartening to read about an administration with the capacity to reach across the aisle and collaborate for the greater good.

Our so-called leaders in Washington could learn a thing or two from Nanci Kauffman and her team about the art of the deal and the power of compromise.

It’s time for our neighborhood, and the entire Palo Alto community, to rise up and support this world-class institution.


Rebecca Eisenberg
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 1:22 am
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 1:22 am
80 people like this

Reducing the garage by a small fraction and agreeing not to demolish 2 houses and 9 trees does not constitute a material compromise.

Castilleja continues to use a campaign of disinformation about the law to bully the community into continuing to pay for its usage of community services, including fire, police, road maintenance, and all other safety services, without paying a dime into government coffers. As a reminder, Castilleja does not pay any taxes. It is tax-exempt even though it is neither is a charitable organization, nor does it offer any services to public. That means that each and every additional risk and burden it creates, it does so at OUR expense, as it does not pay a cent in taxes.

Castilleja is a private school that occupies more than six acres of some of the most expensive residentially-zoned land, on a square-foot basis, in the entire world. This land is zoned for homes and not for a private school. All of Castilleja's peer schools (Menlo, Sacred Heart, Nueva, Crystal Springs, etc) are located on sites zoned for schools. Castilleja very clearly differentiates itself from its competition in its marketing materials as the only private school fortunate enough to be located in the heart of a purely residential neighborhood.

Given that Castilleja occupies lots that are zoned for residential and not educational use, it actually has absolutely ZERO legal right to be located where it is, without the extremely valuable gift from the City of Palo Alto of a "Conditional Use Permit." When Castilleja first was given its Conditional Use Permit, it was a boarding school, so it had a logical argument that it fit into the character of an otherwise residential neighborhood. Now it is not a boarding school, but rather, a commuter school. The traffic it generates is actually bigger than that of many businesses located in business-zoned areas of Palo Alto. Its hours of operation begin as early as 7 am, and given the huge number of events it holds in the evenings and on weekends, the traffic it generates can last well into the evenings and all day/evening on both weekend days.

Fortunately, our Municipal Code protects us against this kind of overreaching land use. Here is what our Municipal Code says about what an applicant (in this case: Castilleja) needs to prove in order to obtain a Conditional Use Permit:

PALO ALTO MUNICIPAL CODE SECTION 18.76
Web Link

Neither the director, nor the city council on appeal, shall grant a conditional use permit, unless it is found that the granting of the application will:
(1) Not be detrimental or injurious to property or improvements in the vicinity, and will not be detrimental to the public health, safety, general welfare, or convenience;
(2) Be located and conducted in a manner in accord with the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan and the purposes of this title (Zoning).

In other words, if the proposed use is at all detrimental to the public "convenience," then it can and must be denied.

An underground garage of ANY size will cause inconvenience to the community. It also will impact our community's well being and safety, even though those bigger impacts are not necessary to be shown.

Castilleja simply has no legal justification for this new conditional use permit. I do not understand why our city government -- and the media -- continues to act as if Castilleja has a legal right to continue to remain on 52 residential lots when it is not residential.

Looking at the facts in brief:

- Castilleja brings in revenues (tuition) of more than $20 million dollars annually, according to its website (number of students, times annual tuition, minus the amount it offers in financial aid (only 20% of students receive *any* aid to help pay for its almost $50,000/year per student (fully loaded) tuition). Yet it pays NO income taxes, and thus its use of community services (police, fire, road maintenance, first responders) is fully subsidized and paid for by the taxpayers in Palo Alto.

- Castilleja owns more than 6 acres of land, with an estimated land value of at least $250 million, but pays ZERO in property taxes. This means not only that all neighbors are paying for its use of community services, per above, but also that the lost revenue that should be generated by the zoned use of the land (residential, property-tax paying homeowners) is revenue that is coming directly out of the budget that is designated for the *public* school students in Palo Alto.

In other words, because Castilleja pays no taxes, but uses our services,. WE are paying for Castilleja, even though Castilleja does not open its doors to the community.

PLUS, importantly, in the past Castilleja has used an argument that its presence in Old Palo Alto is helpful for property values. That argument, however, has been proven false. Rather, the traffic and noise that Castilleja generates has harmed its neighbors' home values, as well as its neighbors ability to enjoy peaceful life in a residential neighborhood.

Additionally, statistical studies have shown consistently that the quality of PUBLIC schools have a far greater positive value on property values than any theoretical improvement in value by the existence of a private school, no matter how prestigious. Given that Castilleja's tax-exempt status directly siphons money from city budgets that otherwise would go to our public schools, Castilleja's location on 52 residential lots has harmed our public schools.

Given the huge inconvenience and harm that Castilleja causes our community, the Planning Department and City Council has no legal right to grant this Conditional Use Permit. Castilleja has two choices: it can modify its CUP to include mitigating services, such as public shuttles, bike bridges, and millions of dollars paid to our Palo Alto Public Schools (which it continues to refuse even to contemplate doing), or it can move to a location that is zoned for schools, like every other school of its size in Northern California.

It has the wealth and the capacity to make either choice. But continuing to argue that its development does not cause inconvenience to the community needs to be treated as it is: a non-starter.


Gus L.
Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2020 at 6:32 am
Gus L., Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2020 at 6:32 am
63 people like this

Its time for Castilleja to move its campus where they can expand, and OUT of a residential neighborhood.
The old PAMF Medical clinic moved to expand,
HP moved out of a Garage to expand...ha..


Robert
Midtown
on Feb 12, 2020 at 8:01 am
Robert , Midtown
on Feb 12, 2020 at 8:01 am
20 people like this

Some residents continue to demonize some of the great institutions that have made Palo Alto what it is today (see Stanford) Jordan Junior high. My question is who was first the school or the complainers? It reminds me of people moving next to a school and complaining about the noise. As a young boy growing up in Palo Alto is was always a treat to be invited to the school's dances good memories.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2020 at 8:32 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2020 at 8:32 am
61 people like this

Posted by Robert, a resident of Midtown

>> Some residents continue to demonize some of the great institutions that have made Palo Alto what it is today (see Stanford)

I haven't seen anybody "demonizing" Stanford or Castilleja. I am *criticizing* their "grow or die" *mentality*. Group-think at its worst: people sit around in a meeting room and all agree that growth is good-- even when the plan makes no sense. Or perhaps the Abilene Paradox Web Link ? There are much better alternatives.

>> My question is who was first the school or the complainers? It reminds me of people moving next to a school and complaining about the noise. As a young boy growing up in Palo Alto is was always a treat to be invited to the school's dances good memories.

The school you grew up next to was smaller than it is today, and, a lot smaller than what is envisioned now. The amount of available land today, however, continues to be *fixed*. It can't grow. Traffic is vastly worse than it used to be. But, even beyond that--

I have. to wonder what it is that Castilleja thinks it is selling. I point to the proposed merger/reconfiguration of ISTP in another thread. They really seem to be selling *education*, and, they realize that they can educate effectively when splitting age groups across different campuses. Harker did it (four campuses now?). Pinewood did the same, with three campuses, as have other schools in similar situations. And now ISTP. There is actually no reason why Castilleja can't do the same as well.

So, why is Castilleja so resistant to doing that? I don't think "education" has anything to do with it. I think Castilleja is selling "Palo Alto" as part of their brand. But, the problem is easily solved. Elementary/middle in other locations, and, "Palo Alto" for the flagship high school right where it is. They can keep "Palo Alto" as part of their brand.

So-- back at you. Stop demonizing people who want Castilleja to behave rationally. They can keep "Palo Alto", and expand like Harker, Pinewood, and now ISTP.


mauricio
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2020 at 8:38 am
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2020 at 8:38 am
67 people like this

If this is a compromise than I am a Boeing 737. Castilleja had purposely presented an expansion on steroids plan they knew was unacceptable and have now "compromised" in order to get what they actually wanted all along.

A private school should not be allowed in a residential area. Castilleja must find land in a non residential area somewhere in the Bay Area and relocate . No expansion plan should be approved, as they shouldn't even be where they are now.


commonsense
Professorville
on Feb 12, 2020 at 10:46 am
commonsense, Professorville
on Feb 12, 2020 at 10:46 am
9 people like this

The land is worth $100m tops. The $250m number quoted above is not anywhere near reality.


Hulkamania
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2020 at 10:51 am
Hulkamania, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2020 at 10:51 am
43 people like this

Thank you Rebecca Eisenberg for your excellent research.


Ohio39
Stanford
on Feb 12, 2020 at 11:44 am
Ohio39, Stanford
on Feb 12, 2020 at 11:44 am
18 people like this

Since the school is100 years old, I assume it was there before you were in the area. I also would guess neither you nor close relatives were able to gain admission to Castilleja. This whole story reminds me of people locating near airports and then complaining about airport noise.


NO NET NEW Traffic
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 12:30 pm
NO NET NEW Traffic, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 12:30 pm
29 people like this

I am mystified by the increase in enrollment and the many, Is this possible? many events, yet NO NET NEW TRAFFIC.
What does this mean? NET of what?

Stanford also uses this tricky measure and it is unclear. NET of what?


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2020 at 12:36 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2020 at 12:36 pm
42 people like this

Posted by Ohio39, a resident of Stanford

>> Since the school is 100 years old, I assume it was there before you were in the area.

Historically, Castilleja was smaller and many students were residential or local, so, commute traffic was minimal.

>>This whole story reminds me of people locating near airports and then complaining about airport noise.

Funny you should mention that. Not a terrible analogy anyway. You buy a house near an "aerodrome". Over the years, night landings increase, planes need longer runways, everything gradually gets busier and louder, but, still tolerable. Then, one day, the first B-707- takes off, rattling your fillings. It keeps getting worse and worse. DC-8's. 727's. Then comes the B-747-100. The runway is lengthened, barely fitting inside the fence. Your eardrums burst. Then comes the B-747-200 with the JT9D-3A engines which hits 110 dB.

I guess the residents should have thought of that before "locating near airports".

The city is overflowing with traffic. We have to define limits and stop growing traffic. Businesses, and schools, that want to expand, need to find ways to do it so that traffic is created elsewhere, not here. For example: by creating a satellite campus elsewhere for middle-school students.



Barron Park dad
Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2020 at 12:57 pm
Barron Park dad, Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2020 at 12:57 pm
18 people like this

Does the school actually pay zero income taxes? Is there precedent or justification for that? Is it normal practice for private schools to not pay income taxes?


They tried
College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2020 at 1:04 pm
They tried, College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2020 at 1:04 pm
42 people like this

[Portion removed.]

This is NOT a compromise.

Casti can take a hike. I'm sick of their endless attempts at manipulation of the city and its residents.


Michelle
Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2020 at 1:25 pm
Michelle, Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2020 at 1:25 pm
30 people like this

Castilleja is compromising and listening. It is time for the neighbors to do the same. Maybe some of the signs can come down? I am excited for a beautiful re-vamped campus to House one of the top rated all-girls high schools on the entire country. Thank you Castilleja for rising above the negativity.


sfvalley
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 1:32 pm
sfvalley, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 1:32 pm
51 people like this

Yes, it is true that the school, as a 501c3 non-profit tax-exempt corporation, does not pay property taxes on its school parcel (nor income taxes). 3/4 of the students come from other cities, so the use of Palo Alto infrastructure and services is uncompensated. I agree that the school planned the outrageously overblown expansion plans so that they could back off some of them and look good, as they try to push through enrollment increases that would set Castilleja at twice the density of any school, public or private, in Palo Alto and number of weeknight and weekend events that exceed exponentially any other school in a residential area. It is offensive to neighbors that the school touts that they are "responding to the neighbors", since we've been working for 3-1/2 years to get them to limit themselves to a reasonable re-construction of school buildings and no underground garage.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2020 at 1:33 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2020 at 1:33 pm
42 people like this

"No net new traffic"??? Is this like Liz Kniss denying we have traffic problems?


Rebecca Eisenberg
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 3:14 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 3:14 pm
52 people like this

To add to "sfvalley"'s correct explanation of Castilleja's tax-exempt status, I just want to clarify one important point:

Castilleja (and Stanford) are not exempt from taxes due to a fortunate coincidence. Rather, the wealthiest and most exclusive private schools in the country have spent millions and millions of dollars as a group on lobbyists and campaign donations in order to create, and now sustain, the loophole includes extends tax exempt status that charitable organizations that serve the public deserve, to non-charitable organizations that serve no *public* benefit.

Many economists and city planners agree that organizations that serve only private rather than public interests -- such as a private campus of a private school -- should not be tax exempt. Unfortunately, schools like Stanford ($3 billion endowment) and Castilleja ($35 million endowment) have far more money to spend on lobbyists than public schools (zero endowment) have. To be very clear: this loophole is regressive, and harms public schools at the expense of private organizations, even the private organizations that serve mostly (or only) the wealthiest among us.

Also, for clarification, the County of Santa Clara grants Stanford its General Use Permit (similar to a CUP but more extensive) to Stanford ONLY because Stanford has agreed to offer significant services to the public, including shuttle busses (the Marguerite) and community events, and Stanford is required -- and indeed does -- open up a significant number of events and services to the community. In fact, as I type this comment, I am on a break during a full day conference on Antitrust Enforcement and Venture Capital Finance being hosted by Stanford, for free, and open to the public. I write this using Stanford's guest WiFi network, and drinking coffee supplied by Stanford. My car is parked on the first level of Stanford's Wilbur Parking lot, which becomes free at 4 PM.

If Castilleja offered ANYTHING of value to the community in exchange for the huge cost and disruption that is certain to be caused (as well documented by the EIR and every other non-biased source that has looked at it), the conversation would be different. For example, in exchange for the lost opportunity of property tax revenue that would be generated by the 52 residential lots if Castilleja were not occupying them, Castilleja could offer to provide annual contributions to the local public schools to mitigate the lost revenue its presence on residential lots causes (as Stanford has done). Additionally, instead of arguing that its garage won't cause more traffic (which we cannot believe), it could provide shuttles available to the public, like Stanford does. And, it could allow the public use of its proposed modernized pool to the public, as Stanford does. In San Francisco, it is common for private schools to make significant donations to local neighborhoods, as well as set aside a material number of admissions for children of needy community members whose admissions are paid entirely by scholarship. There are plenty of needy families in Palo Alto, and many of them have daughters whose futures could be transformed by fully paid scholarships to Castilleja. I think that Castilleja would present a more sympathetic case if it promised to set aside 35 slots (of its requested increase of 150 students) to needy students from disadvantaged backgrounds nearby. On the contrary to this generosity, Castilleja's website says that only 20% of all students receive *any* financial aid to assist with the $50,000 annual cost of attending Castilleja. In other words, 80% -- almost *all* -- Castilleja families spend $350,000 per child for private school education when highly respected public schools can be found within 3 blocks in either direction. And that private school pays no taxes -- either income or property tax -- to compensate the community for any of the services it cannot deny it consumes: fire, police, maintenance, planning dept (!!!), and so forth.

One could imagine countless ways that Castilleja could compensate our community and surrounding communities for the lost revenue and infrastructure costs it creates by taking up so many residential lots in our most valuable residential neighborhood. But Castilleja has not offered anything at all. But instead of investing in the community that has supported it for a century, it has spent its considerable wealth on law firms and PR consultants in an effort to convince us that its monumentally disruptive plans would not be monumental or disruptive. I would be curious to see how much money Castilleja has spent on its several law firms, whose efforts we don't always see. For example, it appears that there are several Castilleja law firm records that may have been withheld from the public record because Castilleja may have threatened legal action against Palo Alto in attempt to FORCE our local government to cede to its demands. (Perhaps a representative from Castilleja could speak truthfully to that point.)

For all these reasons and more, it's not rational to equate a legal argument that Castilleja's proposed CUP needs to be denied (and its current CUP enforced due to 2 decades of Castilleja's noncompliance) with "demonization." Demonization, as I believe it is being attempted to be used here, involves using emotional, irrational opinions to discredit another party. There are ample reasons to deny Castilleja's proposed plans -- and no rational or legal argument that supports granting Castilleja permission to build it's world-class high-tech campus on 52 residential lots that under the law were designated for single family homes.

Given how expensive and time consuming this fight has been -- and will continue to be -- for Castilleja, I don't even see how it serves its own community by insisting on staying in a site it clearly has outgrown. I greatly hope that Nancy Kauffman and the Castilleja Board will look more seriously at a new campus that is zoned for a school, so it can enjoy relationships with its neighbors that lacks this kind of conflict. Please, Castilleja, your own community deserves better than this.


Family Friendly
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 3:46 pm
Family Friendly, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 3:46 pm
20 people like this

“ Castilleja families spend $350,000 per child for private school education when highly respected public schools can be found within 3 blocks in either direction. ”

I can assure you that Castilleja parents pay a *lot* in property and other taxes to the city of Palo Alto and the local school district. Why in the world would that tuition be taxed yet again when it’s paid to the school.

Castilleja students and their parents are your friends and neighbors., contributing enormously to the community. If you want less traffic in Palo Alto, tear down an office building. Don’t attack a school.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2020 at 4:40 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2020 at 4:40 pm
34 people like this

Family Friendly, why would Casti parents pay any "property and other taxes" to Palo Alto if they live in other municipalities as many Casti families do?


Michelle
Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2020 at 4:44 pm
Michelle, Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2020 at 4:44 pm
16 people like this

There are MANY of us who live in Palo Alto who send our girls to Castilleja. We are paying $50k (not 350) a year as well as our property taxes and PAUSD tax. Personally, I pay for two PAUSD students while I have none. I am not complaining. I believe in public schools but I am really confused about why anyone would complain about people like me. I am contributing my fair share.

Further, you comment that Stanford offers a lot to the community. For its immense impact - I don’t agree that some places with free WiFi are a real mitigation factor. But - Cadtilleja is actually listening to its neighbors. So, what would you like and I mean that sincerely.

Let’s have a real conversation. Continually stating that Casti should just move doesn’t move the issue forward. I would like to see this resolved so everyone can move on.


Rebecca Eisenberg
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 4:45 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 4:45 pm
47 people like this

"Family Friendly" -

As has been stated and confirmed, Castilleja pays no property tax, and its location on 52 residential lots results costs public schools millions of dollars every year.

As to why local families would choose to send their kids to Castilleja even though they already pay property tax, I agree, that choice may not make sense. That choice, however, is one made by each one of those families, and if those families choose, they can enroll their kids in public schools for free.

Please note that the choice of sending a child to private school does not operate in a vacuum. When the wealthiest families choose to send their kids to private instead of public schools, that deprives the public schools of potential fundraising that otherwise is redirected to the private schools.

In fact, literally thousands of studies have shown the multitude of ways that private schools divert funding and opportunity from public schools. You can read some of these studies in response to the movement for school vouchers -- an effort supported by President Trump and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss. In other words, "Family Friendly's" defense of using public funds to support private schools, and an argument that families that pay for private schools should be exempt from property tax places the arguer directly in the Trump/DeVoss camp. For the vast majority of families, those policies are not friendly.

Additionally, exempting private schools from public obligations has indirect negative impacts on the community that are harder to quantify. This Atlantic piece articulates some of these social harms: Web Link

What is most frustrating about this situation is the utterly backwards way that supporters of Castilleja's growth plan describes the relationship between Castilleja and the community. Our community HAS SUPPORTED Castilleja for more than a century! Because Castilleja never has paid taxes, it *always* has been supported by the community! Why isn't Castilleja grateful for this?

Here are some of the many things that PALO ALTO has given to Castilleja:

1. Free police protection.
2. Free fire protection
3. Free road maintenance
4. Free tree maintenance
5. Free infrastructure improvements, such as the proposed new split-grade Churchill over/underpass
6. Free enforcement of zoning regulations on Castilleja's neighbors
7. Free pickup of recycling and compost
8. Subsidized pickup of garbage/landfill
9. Free maintenance of utilities to ensure that Castilleja always has electricity, water, gas
10. Provision and maintenance of public libraries that everyone associated with Castilleja are entitled to enjoy
11. Postal services
12. Bike lanes that Castilleja students can use
13. Street parking that Castilleja students and employees can use for free.

CASTILLEJA provides Palo Alto the following:

1. ?????

It could not be more obvious that it is Palo Alto that has been supporting Castilleja for a century, at its own expense. This was viable when Castilleja was smaller and when Castilleja was a boarding school.

Now we are facing the largest housing crisis in history, coupled with the lowest funding for public school's in California's history.

Every single day that our city continues to pay all of Castilleja's bills -- including but not limited to the 13 costs described above -- the public school students suffer. Because Catilleja pays NO TAXES, each student it adds to enrollment requires in the same amount of local revenue spread among more users. Each time Castilleja grows, it takes more from the community.

Castilleja: you have built a great school due to the support of the Palo Alto community and local government for the past 100 years. At this point, Palo Alto cannot continue to support you, when you continue to ask for more and more. Palo Alto's support was always a gift from Palo Alto to your school. Can you consider supporting Palo Alto instead, now?

Castilleja's narrative of being entitled to expand regardless of the cost of its expansion on the community is the literal opposite of the truth: Castilleja is deeply indebted to the generosity and support of the Palo Alto government and community, which had no obligation ever to grant it a variance from the municipal code, much less, such a far-reaching variance. Castilleja's current attempts to obtain its overreaching new plans creates a perfect opportunity for us to see the reality for what it is.

Castilleja, again: please consider your impact on the community you claim to love. If you loved Palo Alto, wouldn't you give back at least as much as you take?


Rebecca Eisenberg
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 4:47 pm
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 4:47 pm
8 people like this

Michelle, I hope these posts have made clear that I am not saying that "Castilleja should just move."


sfvalley
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 5:03 pm
sfvalley, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2020 at 5:03 pm
49 people like this

Castilleja publicly touts that they are "listening" to the neighbors, but the neighbors have been "talking" for 3-1/2 years, in numerous meetings, to deaf ears, so, no, the school is not responding to the neighbors, they are responding to an Environmental Impact Report that reported three "significant and unavoidable impacts" to the community, 2 of them around traffic coming out of the garage. It is great that they want to save the houses (3-1/2 yrs we've been saying that!), but they are still digging a hole and filling it with concrete to store cars, and running cars through it, entering on Bryant (Bike Blvd, tying up Embarcadero traffic) and exiting onto Emerson (and back onto Embarcadero at a very dangerous intersection). Many CUP issues would go down easier with the neighborhood if the school dropped the underground garage from the plans and establishing shuttling from off-site kiss-and-rides instead of adding more parking spaces to encourage more traffic. When the school abides by their TDM we don't have a parking problem. We have a traffic problem. Why the garage?


JR
Palo Verde
on Feb 12, 2020 at 9:46 pm
JR, Palo Verde
on Feb 12, 2020 at 9:46 pm
42 people like this

Looking at the plans, it seems the garage entrance (or exit, I can't tell) is still on Bryant. There absolutely should not be a garage entrance on Bryant Bike Boulevard, Castilleja did not listen to community feedback on this matter. I am disappointed and I once again ask Castilleja to go back and come up with a plan that decreases or eliminates car traffic on Bryant.


Fact Checker
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2020 at 11:26 pm
Fact Checker, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2020 at 11:26 pm
32 people like this

@Michelle,
Your choice to pay property taxes in Palo Alto and pay $50K per year to Casti is just that. Your choice.
Just as a math check, I believe Ms. Eisenberg meant $50K * 7 years (middle school is 3 years and high school is 4 years) = $350K. You can choose to pay $350K or $200K, but it's your choice.
You could also live in Palo Alto and not have children in schools, as many people do.
Ms. Eisenberg makes many points, but I think the main one is that the Casti institution is supported by Palo Alto, and it pays nominal (if any) property taxes . She seems to be suggesting that Casti minimize its burden on Palo Alto and provide services back to the city.
My recommendation is that any change in Casti's CUP should trigger an annual fee for services, of about $1M (increasing annually), which would be low, but would at least provide some mitigation. Casti should also lose the garage and get a shuttle system. The shuttle would appease the neighbors and the fee would appease everyone else.


Turned Off
Professorville
on Feb 13, 2020 at 8:27 am
Turned Off, Professorville
on Feb 13, 2020 at 8:27 am
45 people like this

Castilleja has not proven to be a good neighbor.

A good neighbor would not agree to an increased student population limit then blow right by it, big time. All members of the Casti board and administration should be ashamed of this unethical behavior. Casti has proven it can not be trusted.

A good neighbor would not hide behind wealthy private school non-profit status to avoid millions a year in taxes which support community services and public schools of a community which has supported it with little thanks for 100 years.

Rather, Casti hires pricey lawyers to lead a years-long PR campaign to sell an outrageous expansion plan loaded with more traffic.

It is time for Palo Alto Council to give Casti notice its conditional use permit (CUP) will phase out over the next 10 years.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2020 at 12:51 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2020 at 12:51 pm
35 people like this

I continue to wonder why the Castilleja board hasn't questioned why the middle school portion can't be relocated to a different site. Why spend so much time and energy on the bad idea of growing Castilleja in its current location?


Anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2020 at 6:30 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2020 at 6:30 pm
7 people like this

Not thrilled with notion of vans pools from the East and from the West (from article in another publication). Ok, Dad doesn’t get daughter to the gathering point at correct time in morning to get on bus or van to shuttle down or up Embarcadero to this school in Old Palo Alto, then what?
Another shuttle? Dad puts the hammer down on his Mercedes to get the kid to school on time.
Kid can’t be dropped off if nobody’s there.
I don’t see this system working (knowing how parents can be late, drive too fast, etc.)
Also -
As someone residing near Embarcadero and 101, where we already have heavy traffic, adding a scheme that may not even work (for this supposed school vanpooling, supposed auto trip reductions) prompts me to note this needs to undergo much more review.
Where would these vans pick up students, anyway?


Baffled
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2020 at 3:22 am
Baffled , Old Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2020 at 3:22 am
42 people like this

Perhaps we should ask a former Palo alto school Harker how they have successfully for so many years to shuttle students from Foothill College’s parking lot to their 4 campuses in the South Bay? Perhaps we should ask Harker if splitting into 4 campuses has allowed them to bring in more students as Castilleja wishes for? Pushing for such disruptions without regard for the neighbors and then pulling back under the guise of compromise while not addressing the main issue of significant and unavoidable traffic is duplicitous. The city should not approve of this farce.


typical
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 14, 2020 at 9:18 am
typical, Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 14, 2020 at 9:18 am
42 people like this

Typical negotiating tactic. Ask for something completely outrageous and then reduce that to something simply outrageous in order to dupe the people into thinking that you're actually compromising.

Looking for a real compromise? Remove the awful garage from the plans!


Old Palo Alto Neighbor
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2020 at 8:41 pm
Old Palo Alto Neighbor, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 14, 2020 at 8:41 pm
18 people like this

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Wondering
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 15, 2020 at 8:23 am
Wondering , Old Palo Alto
on Feb 15, 2020 at 8:23 am
19 people like this

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Compromise
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 15, 2020 at 9:32 am
Compromise , Old Palo Alto
on Feb 15, 2020 at 9:32 am
28 people like this

If Trump wants to build a 1000 mile border wall, then he scales it down to 900 should accept that? So by the same argument from the people who are pushing to support the Castilleja”s new plan because their willingness to “compromise”, Trump should also get support for a shorter border wall? Both are just as senseless, waste money and do not solve the real problem.


rita vrhel
Crescent Park
on Feb 15, 2020 at 8:00 pm
rita vrhel, Crescent Park
on Feb 15, 2020 at 8:00 pm
28 people like this

Thank you Rebecca for the "facts: on Castilleja. what happened to the inadequate and incomplete DEIR? esp. for noise and traffic?

I am so tired of hearing Castilleja paid for a $265,000.00 fine,which allowed Castilleja to continue to continue their over enrollment and make millions in the process. So much for a huge fine?

Castilleja is still trying to push this down the neighbor's throats. Minimal changes do not a good neighbor make.

Stand up and support the neighbors; the next horrible project could be in your back yard..... thank you


Reinhart D
Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2020 at 12:11 am
Reinhart D, Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2020 at 12:11 am
9 people like this

We do not need expansion in Palo Alto. We need LESS housing and LESS office space, not more. Return Palo Alto to the way it was 20 years ago, without the increase in traffic, pollution, noise. REDUCE housing.


Unbiased reporting
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2020 at 2:24 pm
Unbiased reporting, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2020 at 2:24 pm
4 people like this

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


matt
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 13, 2020 at 11:25 pm
matt, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 13, 2020 at 11:25 pm
1 person likes this

I moved to Palo Alto purely because of catilejja. My daughter got admission to the school and I moved from Saratoga to palo alto so that I can reduce commute time and be close to school. This notion that a world class school does not increase local real estate values is absurd. castilejja is an asset to the locality.
I am not paying property taxes on a 4 million dollar home. part of that is paying for the public schools I am not even going to use. I would urge people to be little more generous in thinking and be more open minded.every good institution in Palo also increase the overall appeal of the neighborhood.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2020 at 11:17 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2020 at 11:17 am
Like this comment

Posted by matt, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> I moved to Palo Alto purely because of catilejja.
>> every good institution in Palo also increase the overall appeal of the neighborhood.

Your daughter already goes to Castilleja? Then, what's in it for you for the school to increase capacity, embarking on a long, dusty, massive, disruptive construction project? You and your daughter are much better off if Castillja waits until after your daughter graduates before starting construction. Guess what-- that will be true of every subsequent student. If you think more students should have the benefit of a Casti education, well, those students would be much better off if Casti moves its younger grades to one of the schools closing in the area due to reduced enrollment.


Family Friendly
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 14, 2020 at 11:51 am
Family Friendly, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 14, 2020 at 11:51 am
3 people like this

"long, dusty, massive, disruptive construction project".

There's no question regarding the construction project. The current buildings are old, need to be replaced, and are going to be replaced.

The current negotiation is about the design of the new buildings and campus. Castilleja wants to include a modest increase in enrollment, to serve more students. For some reason, a small group of local homeowners are freaking out about that, and misdirecting their rage about congestion toward Castilleja rather than the explosion of office buildings and hotels.


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